US President Joe Biden has “no intention” to send American troops to Ukraine amid escalating tensions with Russia, the White House said on Tuesday.

The comments come one day after the Pentagon announced roughly 8,500 Americans troops have been put on heightened alert in the US in case they are needed to deploy to Europe as part of NATO’s Response Force.

“We’re working through NATO to plus up support in our eastern flank countries. That is what NATO is there for, and we’re committed to the sanctity of that alliance,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“Just to be clear: there is no intention or interest or desire by the president to send troops to Ukraine. NATO is a forum to support our eastern flank countries, and that is what our focus has been on,” she added.

The decision to put the forces on standby comes amid growing tensions in eastern Europe as the West and NATO accuse Russia of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine. Russia has amassed over 120,000 troops on its border with the former Soviet republic alongside a mass deployment of armored vehicles and artillery.

A similar buildup has been seen in Belarus, just to the north of Ukraine. In both cases, Russia denies preparing for an invasion, and maintains its forces are there for regular exercises.

NATO began to increase its presence in Eastern Europe following Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. That year also saw the Kremlin begin its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, a policy it has continued for the past eight years.

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